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Sep

15

2016

A Cold, Hard Lead Conversion Case for Low-Volume Keywords

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Not all keywords are created equal. Some, like “marketing,” draw in huge crowds of searchers each month. Others, like “marketing tips for small shoe store companies,” might squeak out a couple hits.

As marketers, we’re often conditioned to go after attainable high-volume keywords. You know, the kind that pull in over a hundred Google searches per month? The rationale seems sound: We’ll attract more traffic, generate more leads, and close more customers. More clicks = more business, right?

Not always. We always knew that targeting some low-volume keywords was a sound strategy, but one surprising discovery backed it up with cold, hard evidence. We dug into one client’s keyword strategy and found that a forgotten low-volume keyword was generating some of their most highly converting leads.

This goes against the “more clicks = more customers” convention. But when logical assumptions and data go head-to-head, data always wins.

Here’s how we improved conversions with low-volume keywords, and how you can make them work for your own strategy.

Low lead conversion with a “typical” keyword strategy

(Editor’s note: Our experience was based on one client’s experience, but for privacy purposes, we’ll refer to them as Client A; and we have changed keyword examples.)

We began an inbound partnership with Client A, a content management system for churches, and all was going according to plan.

We implemented an inbound marketing roadmap with Client A and devised a keyword strategy based on industry norms: keywords that had high searches (at least 140 a month) and low ranking difficulty (under 70). We kept buyer personas in mind, considering who the target customers were.

Download the free eBook, “Inbound Marketing: Blueprint to Your Success,” to learn how keywords generate qualified leads in an inbound marketing strategy.

We developed a list of keywords that hit the mark. Then, we set off developing content and campaigns around them. Our main focus was especially high-volume keywords (a few thousand searches a month) — we were shooting for the stars, and hoping for big wins in organic traffic.

Then we began implementation. We pulled out all the inbound stops for optimization. We blogged, wrote ebooks, posted on social media, hit “send” on email campaigns, and began workflows for engaging leads.

Traffic… but not conversions

Thanks to our efforts in high-volume keywords, we moved Client A from a 100+ ranking for high volume keywords to the top of Google in just eight weeks. Cue the celebration! But even though traffic was solid, we weren’t seeing astounding organic lead conversion success from these high-volume keywords.

This meant we were hitting all the keyword stops, but not converting traffic to new leads. We were generating traffic, yes, but not necessarily the most ready-to-convert traffic… and that’s where a forgotten low-volume keyword saved the day.

Low-volume, highly targeted 

Recently in Client A’s website, we found a year-old, untouched landing page that was converting at a miraculous 50%. (For a visual, picture a gleaming treasure chest buried in dust). The offer had been developed before our partnership began — months and months ago — but was quietly converting leads all along.

Many of Client A‘s offers convert well, but this landing page was especially high. So we dug into the landing page metrics to find where all the traffic was coming from. The surprising (or, not so surprising) answer was organic traffic: the evergreen goldmine of marketers. 50% of this highly converting traffic was coming in for free via organic, and these people were practically diving down the funnel.

We audited the content offer and found that it was on the first page of Google results for the keyword “church icons.” We did a collective “huh?” This low-volume keyword didn’t fit the criteria for a typical target… after all, it had fewer than 10 searches per month. By definition, this wasn’t a keyword we were going to invest content creation into. It just didn’t seem worthwhile.

Even so, 21% of the people it attracted each month were becoming brand new contacts. This offer was an incredible source of traffic-to-lead conversion, especially compared to many of Client A’s offers that mainly reconverted existing leads. 

How did it work so well? Let’s dig in.

Why it worked

Since the keyword “church icons” was so specific, it’s unlikely to show up as a recommended keyword in any keyword tool. In fact, it was labeled as a “low volume” keyword in our HubSpot portal, meaning you could count monthly searches on two hands. But the interesting thing was that those handfuls of monthly leads were piling up. And this is where you need to break from convention and go with your gut.

The successful lead conversion of this keyword owes itself to two things: clarity and relevancy.

1) Clarity

What do we mean by clarity? Since this keyword was so specific, visitors searching the term and then clicking through the link knew exactly what they were going to get. 

These people were directly searching for something, and so they were brought to a landing page just for that purpose. They skipped the “blog post” and “CTA” steps entirely — no need! They were already convinced they needed the offer, and Client A just needed to deliver.

2) Relevancy

The offer itself had the perfect chemistry of being relevant and useful — mainly because it was perfect for Client A’s buyer persona. These people were looking to improve their websites themselves, so they searched for design elements (icons) related to their industry (Church).

When they landed upon such a relevant resource, they naturally engaged with the landing page. Submitting the form was a breeze. And a form submission put them on an educational track to begin thinking about their problem (ineffective websites) in terms of a solution — like investing in a customized CMS! (AKA, Client A’s service.)

Use low-volume keywords in your own strategy

In your own keyword strategy, take a closer look at your high volume keywords and the conversion rates they are generating. They might be bringing in high traffic, but is it clear which content you should be producing to match the keyword’s intent?

For example, when someone searches for the high-volume “project management,” they could be looking for information on how to implement project management, or what the definition of project management is, or which methods are best for small business project management, or how to find tools to improve internal project management. Your content might hit the mark, or it might not. And for many of those questions, your service might not even be the answer.

On the other hand, someone who searches something like “church icons” is pretty clearly looking for, well, church icons! And design elements naturally tied into Client A’s mission: better church websites.

This keyword was a ready-for-conversion opportunity — the dream Google result. It proved our presumed hypothesis that we could pump effort into high-volume keyword optimization, but that those keywords weren’t necessarily clear for searchers… meaning potentially irrelevant offers and fewer conversions.

But is it worth it? Consider this equation:

  • A keyword with 100 monthly searches that converts 20% of traffic, of which only 5% are qualified leads = 1 potential SQL/month.
  • A keyword with 10 monthly searches that converts 50% of traffic, all of which are qualified leads = 5 potential SQLs/month.

The key is in finding the right low-volume, long-tail keywords that bring in qualified leads — and pairing them with just the right offer. Here’s how it can be done.

1) Brainstorm your offer

Think: Which tools, handbooks, or other freebies can you offer potential leads? They don’t need to be directly related to your product (after all, Client A isn’t a design company specializing in icon design), but they must interest your buyer personas and eventually tie back to your product. Think of pain points for your ideal customers, and how you can easily solve them with some freebie or resource.

(If you’re stuck, you can skip directly to step 2 to start with relevant keywords and work backwards to identify an offer idea.)

2) Find the right phrase with keyword research

Run these ideas through a keyword tool to find potentially related keywords. Remember: clarity and relevancy are key. And if you’ve got a good idea, don’t mind the “search volume” after all!

3) Craft the offer

Spend some time using your resources to get this offer just right. It doesn’t need to be complex: simple checklists or handy how-to worksheets can work wonders for leads.

4) Optimize your landing page

Craft your landing page accordingly. Make sure to optimize the landing page around the keyword with best practices.

Takeaway

Don’t put all your eggs into the common benchmarks for keywords: high volume, low difficulty keywords. It’s important to spread your strategy across different options. After all, some of the best lead conversion opportunities come from highly relevant, low-volume keywords. (That being said, don’t  put all your eggs in the low-volume basket, either! Aim for a diversified strategy.)

The best way to find those opportunities is to understand your buyer personas and what your most qualified traffic is searching for. This affirms our stance that it’s not necessarily web traffic that matters, but rather the right web traffic.

Download the free eBook below to learn how an inbound marketing blueprint helps you nail down your target customer — letting you generate qualified leads and more customers.

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Apr

3

2015

10 Myths About Lead Quality: Busted

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Your leads are the driver of your business. To grow and to gain customers you need to have quality leads that are actively engaged in your organization’s offerings—leads that are a fit for organizations strategy.

While every organization has a unique approach to categorizing its leads, there are several myths associated with lead quality many organizations fall to. Lets take a look at 10 lead quality myths and debunk them using facts derived from industry data.

Myth 1: Any lead is a Good Lead

Fact: You might think, “Look at all these leads we are pulling in! We need to get our sales team to follow up with these leads ASAP and close some deals!” Well, you could do that, but you will find that most of those leads are not ready to buy—in the time they became a lead to the time it took your sales team to reach out to them they haven’t experienced enough touch points with your audience.

Unfortunately, about 61% of B2B marketers still send all leads they receive directly to sales while only 27% of those leads will actually be qualified for a sales call. Remember, you should not pursue every lead you receive. You need to establish a system that better identifies a “hot” lead from someone who is just poking around.

Myth 2: Defining a Process for Scoring Leads Is Not Essential to Produce High Quality Leads

Fact: Defining an in-depth lead scoring process might not be a viable option for all business. In many cases, these scoring systems can be complex, utilizing a lot of data and requiring an extensive CRM system to manage.

However, no matter the size of your company, your technology capabilities or your sales pipeline, it is essential to determine some way to determine which leads are “hot” and which are “cold. You do not need a complex CRM-driven system to develop scoring criteria, but you should have a process in place. In fact, companies that have set up lead scoring have seen an ROI of 138% versus companies without any lead scoring criteria.

Myth 3: Lead Nurturing Is Not Essential to Produce High Quality Leads

Fact: Lead nurturing is perhaps one of the best ways to produce high quality leads. Not everyone who visits your site and fills out a consultation form is going to be qualified. This is where lead nurturing comes in. In fact, 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales due to a lack of lead nurturing. Companies that establish a system for nurturing their leads on average produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads.

Myth 4: My Sales Team Is the Best Resource I Can Use to Gauge if a Lead Is a Good Fit

Fact: It’s true that your sales team can gain insight about a lead’s quality by reaching out to them. However, this requires an extensive amount of time since your team will have to physically reach out to every lead and build a profile.

When it comes to determining if a lead is a good fit for your organization, it should be a team effort among your sales and marketing team. Both teams should be aligned with strategic criteria put in place to determine a quality lead from a unqualified lead.

Companies with tightly aligned marketing and sales teams enjoy a 20% increase in annual sales where as companies with poor alignment saw a decrease in annual sales of 4%. This annual increase is achieved by having a focused strategy where both sales and marketing understand your organization’s strategic objectives, which allows them to know exactly what opportunities to pursue.  

Myth 5: My Buyer Persona Is a Key Indicator of Lead Quality and Should Be Set in Stone

Fact: Understanding your buyer persona is essential for identifying and developing quality leads. With up to 70% of the buying process being conducted without a sales rep, the targeted content you use to engage leads today is even more important. This content needs to be catered to the interests of the decision makers in the industries you target, and these personas constantly evolve with the market.

If you haven’t revisited your personas in a couple of years, you might want to look to see if changes in your target industries have affected your current personas. The average sales cycles have changed over the last 5 years due to more decision makers being involved in the buying process. If you are only targeting C-suite personas, you might be missing out on reaching and nurturing key influencers found in lower-level positions.

Myth 6: Explicit Data Should Be the Primary Criteria to Determine Lead Quality

Fact: Explicit data is important when it comes to determining and identifying a quality lead. Explicit data is generally demographic information about the lead that will help you indicate if that person and their company is a good fit with your organization.

However, explicit data isn’t the only thing that can help you identify a lead’s quality. Implicit data, data that is derived from that action that a lead takes on your site (resource downloads, website visits, emails opened, etc.) can also be used to see how engaged that lead is with your content. Pairing this information with the explicit data you collect can help you determine how qualified and engaged the lead is with your organization. This information—paired with a good lead scoring system—can allow you to correlate engagement with lead qualification and, more accurately, place that lead into specific categories based on quality.

Myth 7: Social Media Does Not Produce Quality Leads

Fact: Since 2012, social media had a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing. Additionally, 70% of companies today have used social media to generate customers, and 34% of marketers have harnessed social media to generate quality leads.

Today, there are a number of tools your team can use to actively track, manage and nurture leads developed from your social media activities. For instance, HubSpot’s Social Inbox tool allows you to see who is talking about your company as well as related topics, allowing you to engage with them from one easy-to-use portal.

Additionally, tools like this also allow your team to manage leads accordingly, offering a simple solution for reporting, as well as, allowing you to effectively incorporate social media interactions into your lead scoring system.

Myth 8: I Only Need to Actively Pursue Leads That Have Requested Sales Contact

Fact: It’s true that leads that have indicated a readiness for sales need to be actively pursued. However, you should also actively pursue those leads that have been identified as marketing qualified.

In some cases, you might experience what we at Kuno Creative call, a High Velocity Marketing Qualified Lead. This lead is someone that has shown a high level of engagement in a relatively short period of time but has not necessarily completed a bottom funnel conversion. These leads should be actively pursued through nurturing and perhaps even passed to your sales team for a quick qualification call.

Myth 9: Becoming a Sales-Ready Lead is a Final Destination

Fact: Becoming sales ready is not a final destination for a quality lead. If all goes to plan, that lead will become a customer. However, more often than not, that lead is not ready to buy or hasn’t responded to your sales initiatives. This doesn’t mean the lead is now unqualified; he or she might just be backtracking in their own buyer journey.

In this instance, it is apparent that they are still in the consideration stage of their journey. You should re-evaluate that lead and “recycle” them for further nurturing. Effective lead recycling can take seemingly lost opportunities and turn 15-25% of those into sales. You never know—down the road they might be giving you a call back.

Myth 10: Quality Leads Can Only Be Generated from in-House Lead Generation

Fact: In-house lead generation can produce great quality leads, but a number of studies have indicated that companies sometimes struggle with their complex in-house lead generation processes. A Marketing Sherpa study indicated that companies that outsourced lead generation to an external company/agency actually produced 43% better results than in-house efforts when identifying quality leads for their sales team.

Don’t let your lead generation, nurturing and scoring efforts fall prey to one of these myths. While getting the right leads and turning them into customers is a lot of work, it is definitely worth the time of your marketing and sales teams.

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